Shortly before music venues shut their doors in March 2020, Scott Ordway, Assistant Professor of Music Composition at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, and Nate Zullinger, Conductor of the Chamber Singers of Haverford and Bryn Mawr, spoke of their plans for what could be an end of term without rehearsals and performances of choral singing. By May, when it became clear no choral classes could be held in person, Ordway contacted him to propose a project which could be done completely online. Zullinger suggested they make it a joint project commissioned by Hamilton College, Swarthmore College, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr.
One hundred singers at the four institutions were asked to complete a sentence that began “One year ago today, I did not know that…”. Ordway edited the responses to create the lyrics and set it to music. After intensive work with their respective choral conductors Nathan Zullinger at Bryn Mawr and Haverford, Charlotte Botha at Hamilton, and Joseph Gregorio at Swarthmore, the singers each made 6 recordings of their parts. They also submitted short films for the accompanying video. Ordway, together with Frankfurt-based engineer Alexander Brusencev and two research assistants from Rutgers University, Mateo Urgilés, and Kimberlee Sibilia, carried out the Herculean task of editing the nearly 1,600 audio and video files.
The final project is seamless –the video flows through an intriguing series of people, places, objects, and pets, which have special significance to each of the singers. Ordway’s choral music is quietly melodic, with excellent bass voices rounding out so many phrases. The blend is masterful – be it due to the excellent choral coaching, adept singers, the engineer, or all three together.
The result is a moving seven minutes and change which, due to its cathartic nature, is actually comforting. To hear it yourself, click here.